One of those ‘this might be daft’ ideas quickly turned into something that grew legs that threatened to sprint off into the Warwick Road End shadows a few weeks ago when Dan MacLennan, one of a group of moderators who look after the popular TheCumbrians.net online forum, was subject to a sudden flash of inspiration as he scrolled his way through some Facebook posts.
The CUOSC led ‘Face in the Crowd’ initiative had already gone some way to alleviating the pain of fans being locked out of grounds during the pandemic, with cardboard cut-outs of supporters spread across the Pioneer Stand seated areas, but a seemingly innocent question in the ‘Be Just and Fear Not’ group led to a fundraising campaign that has manifested itself into six eye-catching giant flags which have now taken pride of place behind the goal in the iconic ‘cattle-shed’ stand.
Taking up the story, Dan said: “About six to eight weeks ago I was on the ‘Be Just and Fear Not’ Facebook group and I saw another fan saying that he’d like to have his flag at the ground, and he was wondering if the club would allow him to hang it up.
“I thought, we can go better than that, why don’t we get some big ones like we see at Premier League grounds. I fired a quick email off to Nigel Clibbens, who was all for it.
“By the end of that day we’d set up a GoFundMe page and in just 24 hours we’d got to about £2,400 raised. Within a week we were around the £5,000 mark, so it fairly took off.”
Fellow message board moderator Matt Spooner added: “Originally we were looking at £500, but it snowballed overnight, and when it reached the £5,000 point Dan sort of wet himself!”
Following that colourful description at the delight of an off-the-cuff idea having turned into something that had clearly caught the imagination, it was left to Dan to explain the thinking behind the finalised designs which now adorn the Warwick Road End of the stadium.
“We have one dedicated to the 1974/75 team,” he told us. “There is one with ‘Cumbrians since 1904’ with one of the old 1960s badges on it, which is a bit of a personal favourite.
“There is a large ‘Be Just and Fear Not’ design with the red fox on. Then there’s the Legends flag, and I appreciate there are certain players not on it who people will feel should be. We could have put that to a vote, but it would have gone on forever and time was of the essence.
“After that we have one with the current club badge, and then there’s the Beech Boys flag based on a famous Beach Boys album, featuring Chris Beech and some of the current players.”
“We had a couple of blokes who are pretty good at graphic design, who helped us,” he continued. “I need to say thank you to the fellas at Footballflags.co.uk. They’ve been absolutely fantastic and they’ve kept in touch all the way through.
“As Matt said, we had £500 as an initial target thinking that we’d be able to get one flag. I think it was approximately 350 fans who donated in the end, ranging from £5 to £118 … which was a bloke who wanted to round it up to the £5 grand.
“Chris Beech’s son Brandon confirmed on Twitter that Chris had donated as part of that, and that was absolutely fantastic.”
“On the whole the reaction to the flags has been good,” Matt said. “Knowing that Chris Beech had actually genuinely donated helped fans engage more, and we got a good buzz from that.
“I think overall it’s been well received because we all think it’s good to see something in the ground, if it can’t be fans. It would be nice if it can become a permanent fixture, maybe in the Waterworks when fans do get back in the ground, next season hopefully.”
The design, creation and delivery of the stunning set of flags has left around £800 in the kitty – so could there be a phase two?
“Again, we spoke to Nigel Clibbens and he has agreed and got permission from the club owners about what we would like to do next,” Dan commented. “We’re looking to get a mural done in a sort of street art style and we’ve identified two or three possible venues.
“I’m currently speaking with Stephen Dunn from the Old Fire Station and Carlisle City Council, and he has managed to source us an artist. The big news is we’re looking at getting a mural done in the next few weeks, so watch this space for that.
“The money’s there to be spent, I don’t want it sat in my bank, people put the money in, so let’s get a slightly more permanent display as well as the flags that are here while fans aren’t.
“What I can say about the mural is that it will be fully visible. I don’t think we’ve had the final location confirmed yet, but it will certainly be where fans can get a photo of it, away fans if they’re walking around the ground will see it, and hopefully it will become a bit of a standout thing.
“Carlisle’s getting a bit of a reputation for street art and this hopefully ties in with that to bring it to a new audience.”
And with the project almost completed, and within such a short timeframe, Dan concluded: “This is definitely an example of how proactive fan groups can be.
“We got the idea pushed straight away, got the answers straight away, and kicked into gear from there. It shows the fans will get behind campaigns that are good for them.
“I’m not surprised that our fans reacted so positively, but still surprised that we got the £5,000. We know what our fans are like. We get on board with good ideas, and this has proved that to be the case yet again.”